Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homelands- Potiki

For a significant portion of my life my father was in the Navy. He was often gone for six to eight months at a time. During his career whenever my family was living on the East coast we would take trips to our beach house in Cape May, NJ. I have always loved the water; no matter where we were stationed we were always within 5 miles of it, often on naval bases. When we were living in Annapolis for the first time, we were returning home from another trip at the beach, I remember it being so good to have my Dad back but also feeling homesick for all five of my family members to be in our house in Annapolis. Still to this day, every time I drive over the Naval Academy Bridge I get the feeling that I’m home. When you reach the peak of the bridge the most beautiful and picturesque view of the Naval Academy comes into sight. Of all the places I have lived, and there are many, that image is the most comforting sight for me whenever I have been away for a period of time. As soon as I reach that bridge I know I am home.
Homelands are obviously a very personal thing, defined differently for everyone. For the Maori people that are described in Potiki, home is a direct connection to the land. The houses and wharenui they have built have come and gone, they have been built and destructed by war and rebuilt. While the buildings do have some feeling of nostalgia for the natives, the ultimate sensation of being home is obtained when they are working the land and living on the land. Hemi is quoted by Toko saying “that the land and sea are our whole lives, the means by which we survive and stay together” (98). The Maori people correlate their identity and family ties with the land, similarly to how I connect the feeling of home and safety with seeing the bridge and the view of the Academy.
Ultimately, it becomes very obvious that the main values of the native people are both the land and the rich ancestry found within the land, in the burial ground. Hemi states on more than once occasion that the only thing they need for survival is the land and that his “education had been on the land” (59). Everything about the land is valued by the Maori people, the view (which they would go to lengths to protect), the sea and the animals within it, the things which are produced by it, and most of all the ties formed with the land and their ancestors.
Scenery has a very large impact on all of us, whether it is a concrete jungle, or open fields, or beaches, or even a bridge, all are able to have an affect of us and provoke certain feelings. Specific places will forever be comforting to us as individuals just as an area can be comforting and of great importance to a group of people.

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